Teaching English as a second language is a great way to live abroad, explore a new culture, and gain professional experience. The demand for native English teachers is growing as English becomes an increasingly global language, and opportunities are available around the world. This page will get you started on the path to teach English abroad, providing resources on certification, job search, and more.
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I am an undergraduate student.
Most full-time English teaching positions abroad require a bachelor’s degree, but you can try it out as an undergraduate intern before committing to a full-time position.
To gain experience teaching abroad, check out the internships we offer.
For questions, email us or make an appointment with one of our advisors.
I am graduating soon, exploring post-graduation options, or have already graduated.
You’ve come to the right place!
Continue below exploring this page, and feel free to reach out to your career services office or the Language Institute to discuss your interests further.
*The University of Wisconsin–Madison and the International Internship Program do not endorse or assume responsibility for any information offered by third-party websites that are linked through this page.
Step one: Certification?
Consider whether or not you need to pursue a certification to teach abroad. Some opportunities do not require this, but others might. Common certification types are TEFL, TESOL, and CELTA. Research your country of interest to see if any of these are necessary or preferred.
Step two: Job Search
Once you have decided whether or not to obtain a certification, there are numerous avenues to explore when finding a job. You can consider location, salary expectations, target age group, institution type, and many other factors when applying, interviewing, and making your decision.
Step three: Preparing
Before going abroad, you will likely need to complete some visa requirements, such as gathering documents, preparing fingerprints, and completing background checks, as well as making travel accommodations and taking care of other miscellaneous tasks.
English Teaching Certification Options
Do I need a certification to teach abroad?
It depends! In many countries in Asia, it will be expected as a basic work visa requirement and a way to prove your credibility. In many European countries, the structure in place for English teachers is slightly different and does not require a teaching certification.
Do your research on whether or not this would be helpful in your country of interest, and consider what you could learn from participating in a teaching course.
What is required for a certification?
Again, it depends! Research the similarities and differences between a TESOL, TEFL, and CELTA, and be sure that the program has the following components:
- At least 100 hours of training and instruction
- At least 20 hours of observed teaching practice
- Accreditation from a recognized independent body
- Instruction by qualified trainers
Some certification courses are online, and others are on-site, both in the US and abroad. Consider which options best suits your learning style and your goals.
For more local professional development resources, check out Wisconsin TESOL.
The University of Wisconsin – Madison offers a TESOL Certificate program that provides extensive training to prospective ESL teachers, especially for positions abroad. Certificate holders report being prepared and confident for overseas English-teaching jobs and are recognized for their knowledge and teaching skills.
There are many different certification options available, so be sure to do your research and evaluate which option is right for you.
Teach Abroad Programs
If you feel you need some assistance, there are a wide variety of reputable programs available around the world that will help you through the job search process.
If you are unsure about a program, read reviews online from former participants, and do your due diligence on typical salaries for English teachers in the countries you are interested in.
While it is expected that you will pay for any certifications as well as personal and travel expenses, you should not have to pay to teach English abroad or give any part of your salary to a program.
There are a number of well-known job boards that advertise jobs for international English teachers. Be sure to evaluate each posting for legitimacy. Some examples are TeachAway, TEFL.com, and GoinGlobal (login via UW Handshake or IIP Database external search)
Another facet to the international ESL industry is the recruiter. Recruiters work directly with schools to find teachers, and make a commission when a teacher is hired or placed. A reputable recruiter should not charge you, the candidate, any fee for their help.
This is a good option if you know where you want to work, but are having a hard time sorting through the various schools and options. Teaching Nomad and Reach to Teach both have recruitment services.
Applying and Interviewing
You can prepare for the job search by updating your resume with any relevant experience, and brushing up on any teaching techniques that you have learned. Visit your college’s career services office to get resume feedback or conduct mock interviews.
In some cases, you will be asked to submit a teaching demo video. Be sure to prepare a few props, focus on the learning objectives, and be confident!
Accepting an Offer
If you are offered a position with a school, do your research on average salaries and benefit expectations in your location, and be sure that everything is fair and clearly stated. Also ensure that the school is able to provide you a valid work visa.
Depending on the country or the institution you may receive other benefits such as flight reimbursements or medical insurance in your offer as well.
Preparing to Go Abroad
Your school or program should provide you with all the necessary information on how to complete the work visa application requirements. The materials needed may vary from country to country, and it may require a visit to the nearest embassy or consulate, or working with a visa service. Visit our campus resources page for helpful links.
Be sure to complete everything ahead of time, as the process can take several days to several weeks or more.
For health and safety tips, visit the US Department of State website and the UW International Safety and Security website, and do your best to inform yourself on current events and customs in your country before you arrive.
Region Specific Resources
Not sure where to teach abroad? Check out the ITA Country Comparison Chart for specific country details.
High salaries, unique adventures, and interesting languages are all a great reason to teach English abroad in Asia.
China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia are popular countries to teach English abroad.
Europe is a great destination with many reputable government programs that offer a living stipend and other benefits.
Popular countries to teach English in include Spain, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Italy.
Salaries are typically lower, but so is the cost of living in Latin America. It is also a great opportunity to practice your Spanish skills.
Many English teachers find themselves in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Chile, and Argentina.